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September 2011

Zombie Undead

cast: Ruth King, Kris Tearse, Barry Thomas, Christopher J. Herbert, and Sandra Wildbore

director: Rhys Davies

79 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 16:9
Metrodome DVD Region 2

RATING: 1/10
review by Max Cairnduff

Zombie Undead

Where do I begin? Perhaps by a simple recommendation: don't buy this movie. Don't rent it. Don't even torrent it. Do everyone who is involved with it a favour. Pretend it never happened and let them move on with their lives. It's the kindest thing you can do.

Low-budget zombie movies aren't necessarily terrible. A lot of new directors like doing them. You don't need a big budget, special effects are easy and scripting isn't particularly challenging because the rules of the genre are pretty well established and fairly rigid. You don't have to follow those rules, but if you do a lot of work is already done for you.

Occasionally, some are even genuinely good. Colin, for example, has a few continuity errors and some scenes are maybe a bit gratuitous but, overall, it's original and well worth catching. Zombie Undead isn't one of the good ones. It's badly directed, badly acted, badly scripted, the continuity's a mess, the camerawork is terrible... and you're probably catching a theme here.

The film begins with a terrorist bomb attack and cuts swiftly to a car hurtling through the countryside. In the front is a paramedic, Steve (Barry Thomas). He's shouting instructions and reassurances to a woman, Sarah (Ruth King), in the backseat. She's cradling her badly wounded father. There's a lot of blood. There are also a lot of odd camera angles and tinted lenses - perhaps to add drama. It doesn't add drama. It does make it a bit painful to watch.

They arrive at the hospital and it's in chaos. The injured are everywhere. A doctor stabs Sarah's father with adrenalin as he battles to keep him alive. She faints and when she wakes up she's on her own. Sarah's confused and frightened. She has a head injury and her vision is blurred. She sees a man stumble towards her and calls for help but he attacks. Moments later another man, Jay (Kris Tearse), has rescued her by killing her attacker with machete blows to the head. The film is on.

I'm at risk of making it sound exciting. The amateurish nature of it all though makes sure it isn't. The zombie (and all the other zombies appearing later on) is incredibly slow moving. It's only really a threat because Sarah stands there waiting for it (her default throughout the film - Sarah doesn't once even attempt to move away from the undead pursuing her).

Sarah wants to find her father. Jay wants to find his brother who's also somewhere lost in the hospital. They find Steve the paramedic who just wants to escape. I want to escape too, but I can't because I have a review to write so I have to watch the whole thing. The premise isn't a bad one. After all, [REC] features a small group of people trying to get out of a zombie infested building, and that's a great film. It's the laziness here that kills it.

Let's ignore small issues like where Jay got a machete from in a hospital (perhaps there was a vending machine?), things like that are not the real problem. It's the camera lingering on a corpse which visibly blinks during close-up. It's the characters running into an open space and shouting about how there's no way out while standing in front of a no parking sign and a bicycle rack. It's the utter lack of care that pervades the whole film.

Sarah is an incredibly irritating character. She's not alone in that. Later in the film the three survivors meet another small group and band together with them. None of them are remotely interesting or sympathetic. It's actually probably fairly realistic that people attacked by undead monsters might just stand around helplessly not defending themselves or each other. It doesn't make gripping viewing however.

It doesn't help either that of the entire cast, only Barry Thomas as Steve shows the slightest hint of acting ability. I'm not saying he's great - with this script (written by Kris Tearse who is of course also the hero) he doesn't get the chance to be, but he's at least not utterly stilted like the others. I wish it could say it improves, but it doesn't. It's not even so bad it's funny. It's just bad.

It gives me no pleasure at all to be so scathing about a project that people will have spent real time and money on (though evidently not very much money). I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, particularly not ones this negative. I don't like criticising a project that however bad must have come out of a hope to create something good. The reality though is that this is a terrible film which simply didn't merit release. Avoid it.

Mercifully, Zombie Undead came without extras. As a final note, Zombie Undead follows a recent trend of having cover images that don't actually appear in the film. It's not a practice I like but in this case the less actually in the film the better.



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